Reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats

Please be aware that reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats. I’m writing this story as a warning to cat owner’s who use reed diffusers to scent the air. Having done some research, I’d like to share the story of a cat named Dewey, pictured…

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Reed diffuser

Reed diffuser

Reed diffusers are sticks inserted into a liquid used to make a room smell good. In other words, it would likely cover any lingering cat odors. Dewey had the misfortune of knocking over a cinnamon reed diffuser a few weeks ago. His owner cleaned him up quickly, thinking everything would be fine. They believed the cinnamon just stained his skin, when in reality it was burning and destroying cells everywhere the spill had touched Dewey.

According to his family, it took one to two weeks for the damage to show up. Dewey had chemical burns over a good portion of his belly and on his back legs. The damage was so severe that Dewey had to be put under anesthesia to debride his wounds (surgical removal of dead skin/tissue). He spent five days at the vet, and this has run up an expensive vet bill. His family says the photo here was made several days after treatment was started. His condition at the time of his first vet visit was much worse.

The danger in cinnamon comes in the form of cinnamaldehyde, which gives cinnamon its flavor and odor. If you Google the term, you’ll find plenty of information on this seemingly innocent natural deodorizer. Cinnamaldehyde is also used as a fungicide. One bit of advice I found helpful came from the I Love Dogs forum and stated

“As far as other non-cinn scents, many oils, synthetic and essentials are very skin safe, but you need to know what the base oils are in the reed kits.”

For those who enjoy the aroma of cinnamon, there are many homemade recipes on how to make a safe product to use in a diffuser.

This article is important, not just to cat owners, but to those who have children. It would be easy for a child to knock over a reed diffuser, and could prove disastrous, should a child get the chemical on their face or in their eyes.

It’s a shame we must learn the hard way that just because something is touted as natural doesn’t mean it comes without risks. Be sure to study up on anything in your home that your pets will be around. We have to be smart consumers, and protect ourselves and our pets. We also have to act quickly, should something like this happen. I think the majority of us have learned to pay an emergency visit to the vet at the first sign of an emergency.

Have any of the readers dealt with any skin conditions on their cats that were caused by something you believed was safe? Please educate us in the comment section. Personally, I lost four cats to mothball poisoning many years ago when a neighbor put them under their home. My cats drank from a puddle that formed after it rained and were dead within a few days.

Elisa


Comments

Reed diffusers can cause chemical burns in cats — 28 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Elisa. Frankly, it looks horrendous and I am shocked at Dewey’s injuries. I presume that this particular chemical can burn any skin which means people are at risk too. Do you know if there is a warning on the label? It would seem to be an unsafe product.

    • There may be warning on commercial products, but if you purchase from sources that aren’t regulated there may not be. The way I look at it we all have to Google anything we use around our cats and dogs. There’s no other way to know whether something is safe or not. A lot of cat owners use things like this in their home. We use Febreeze spray.

      I have a serious migraine condition, meaning I have to pre-spray anything before I purchase. I can tell at one whiff whether an odor will trigger a migraine. My Elavil prevents most of my headaches, but a strong odor will break through the medication. Perfumes are the worst. I can’t be around any of them.

  2. Poor Dewey! Really it’s best not to use anything at all like read diffusers or even air fresheners or suchlike in a house where there are cats. They don’t even diffuse the smell, just mask it,you can still smell the original smell underneath.

    • Anosmia can be an advantage! I’d NEVER have anything like this in my house.

      When I was a kid I didn’t know I didn’t have a normal sense of smell and I could just never figure out the girls who loved scented this and scented that– perfume, body lotion, soaps and candles– they’d shove it under my nose: “Oooh, sniff, isn’t that wonderful?” I’d sniff and pretend to be excited while thinking, “Is she really into this? This is so stupid. I can’t smell anything and even when I can it all smells kind of exactly the same…” I had no idea that other people could actually smell things better than I could, even though I’d heard the stories about my great grandma salting her food heavily because she couldn’t taste things properly having no sense of smell. That was her, not me. I was normal. I thought. So I grew up with a real disdain for anything scented, including air fresheners, because I got so tired of pretending to be able to smell something or that I could tell one scent from another. Even before I read about this kitty who got burnt I HATED those diffusers. I could do a good rant against them and the people who use them, but it would not be fair.

      I’m sure for a person with a normal sense of smell scented products are fun instead of boring, useless and stupid. No, sorry, I still think they are boring, useless and stupid. Add dangerous to the list. I despise them all.

      • Ruth were you born with no sense of smell?
        I hate strongly scented stuff and we never use anything scented or wear perfume, it’s not fair on cats.


        • I HATED those diffusers.

          I hate them too. They are unnecessary, a commercial creation. People should learn to accept normal scents and smells rather than rejecting them for an artificially created scent.

        • I have a sense of smell, so I don’t truly have anosmia. But my sense of smell doesn’t function as well as other people’s and I think it has always been that way. I can tell if there is an odor present, at times, but I can’t identify the scent. I have to know what I’m smelling to know what it smells like. I think my brain fills in the gaps. Once we were driving and I smelled something. I immediately thought we had driven by a dead skunk. I really seemed to be smelling skunk. My husband said it was garlic. We had driven by a pizza restaurant.
          When I was studying to be a PTA we did cranial nerve testing. They blindfold you and hold various scents under your nose to test the olfactory nerve. I couldn’t tell peanut butter from coffee from citrus from vanilla. I could tell if the sample was there, but I could not tell what it was. That’s the first time I realized I need to know what something is before I can smell it. I’m usually not aware of odors unless people say something. Even then I may or may not be able to detect it.

    • Totally agree. These devices also give off chemicals that makes the air smell better but what do the chemicals do when inhaled? There may be health consequences for both cats and humans that are not seen.

      All air-freshening devices are far less good than opening the windows slightly and keeping the home reasonably clean.

  3. Elisa – did you do anything to the neighbour who did that? This is my worst nightmare – I’m sorry you had to go through it. Poison is long and painful. What a tragedy. Bad people make us have to never leave home.

    • I read that mothballs can also kill people if there are too many in house and the people are in the house a lot because of the toxic fumes. I thing they damage the liver or kidney. There are actual cases of deaths due to inhalation of mothball fumes.

    • It was back in the 1980′s. There wasn’t much we could do because it was an accident and the cats were on their property when it happened. Yet another reason we don’t allow our cats outside.

  4. Please reply to my comment. I am one of those who uses reed diffusers, although the solution is homemade. I live with a wonderful cat, Shrimptaro, who has chronic upper resp. from illness when I rescued him at five weeks of age. You can imagine how careful I am in the household with scents. I adamantly am against using an aerosol because of this. The massive oak coffeetable against the wall has a large walnut bowl of apples, a Bose cd/radio player, a stack of old philosophy books (mildew-free), an old iron 4″ cat holding a little tray with a halved-geode beneath it (Marco likes to tip over the cat!), an old Japanese ceramic sake bottle stuffed w/ dried wheat stems sitting next to a box pussywillow Japanese lamp, and a reed diffuser-a triangular 3″ bottle filled with rosewater from Turkey. No oils.

    I truly believe that if one is careful, no harm will come to beloved felines. It is just daft, imho, to use oils, esp strong oils like cinnamon, in a diffuser where cats come into the equation. Marco, the kitten, likes to chew on the dried wheatstems, which is why I placed them two feet from the diffuser.

    • I think you’re OK. From what I’ve read cinnamon is a “hot” spice. That’s one reason a lot of people take it for viruses. It burns them out of you. It would only be fair to guess that what’s hot on the inside will be hot on the outside. I wouldn’t use cloves for the same reason. I’m a constant Googler when I want to buy anything for the cats.

  5. We had a scare with tea tree oil a few months back. Laura uses it for ezema and a small amount leaked out of the bottle when it overturned. Laura was making her rounds wiping counters and caught it. I looked it up online and even a few drops can be fatal if ingested.

  6. I am the owner of Dewey…… an employee at worked snapped this photo of him while he was in my office.
    I am a very private person and DO NOT want any part of my life spread around the internet

    Would love to see more on preventing having SO many of these strays and needy animals…. Ie: spaying and neutering

    I know it’s spread all over the place but I am trying to find and contact as many as I can.

    I also have had my employee remove the original from her facebook site.

    Please help me out here…… I’m not against helping animals….. but feel violated

    Your article sounds as if I were interviewed…… High Vet bills!!! Really…. There is no price on my babies well being

    Please remove and ask that anyone you know of do the same

    • d — writing about this accident means that positives are taken from it. What happened to Dewey can help other cats and prevent the same accident happening again.

      No one knows who you are and no one is blaming you for anything. It is the manufacturers who are to blame obviously for producing a dangerous product.

      No one would know that this product would burn chemically unless you were in the business or a chemist. I hope you let us keep the photo on the website.

  7. @d. I didn’t mean any disrespect but you and your cat have probably saved quite a few lives. I never mentioned your name so your privacy is protected.

    I’m not sure whether you realize it but I write about 8 hours a day to help dogs and cats. My very best cat stories are on this website. But the majority of my writing time is spent helping raise funds to pay vet bills and in lost pets in SC.

    I know how high vet bills are and you’re right that no amount is too great when its your baby. Roxy and Delaney were 2 dogs in SC rescued from a puppy mill who had similar injuries and their vet bills were in the thousands.

    A friend of mine posted Delaney’s photo and I simply wanted to warn others.

  8. Thank you for all you do for the animals, however I would really appreciate it if you could take his picture off. Nothing personal (except to me)

    I will be much more mindful in the future about pictures that I allow anyone to take.

    Thanks for taking it off and understanding

  9. I agree that Dewey’s accident may save many other animals (and humans) from the same fate. That’s a GOOD thing! It sounds like you did not give your employee permission to post the picture. Considering how many times its been shared, I doubt anything can be done at this point to preserve any perceived privacy.

    • I agree Lisa D. I think what happened was that Dewey’s caretaker allowed the photo to be taken without realising it would be published all over the internet. Dewey’s owner will not be able to get the image deleted everywhere. I feel I have been nice to her because not many website owners would even respond to her request. They’d just ignore it.

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  11. I have to jump in here, I know, a little late, but this is exactly why I stopped “burning” candles… for my safety and health and that of my cat. It didn’t make sense to have a burning flame along with the chemicals and smoke/soot from this process just to get my apartment to smell better. I also used reed diffusers and never gave it a thought as to what the stuff was made of! Scentsy warms food grade wax, no smoke, no soot, no flame. Takes care of the burning situation! It’s safe around children and pets, the picture of poor Dewey made me want to tell people even more. There is a better way…. stay safe!

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